In October 2014, during the early hours of the day before the rivalry game, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan began a new collaborative tradition. Through that night for 11 hours, MSU and U-M ROTC Army cadet corps, along with ultra-marathoner, Michael Richmond, ran through Michigan’s back roads. They carried, for the first time, the official game ball over sixty miles from the Big House to Spartan Stadium. Why, you ask? To honor the life, struggle, and spirit of a truly remarkable young man named Alex Powell. 

Watch Michael Hudson, RCPD Director, reflect on Alex’s Great State Race

When Alex was diagnosed with life-threatening cancer while still in high school, he made an amazing choice to continue to pursue his goal of becoming a Spartan. During his 15-month battle, he fought his illness courageously while attending college. With the help and dedication of the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) and coordination with U-M’s Cancer Center, this was made possible to the greatest degree.    

After Alex’s passing, the Powell family longed to honor his courage in some way, while highlighting the possibilities the RCPD and others had helped create for him during this most difficult time. In collaboration with RCPD leadership, the MSU Alumni Association, Dean Trailways, and a dedicated committee, Alex’s Great Sate Race was born.   

AGSR 2014: MSU and U-M cadets joined by an ultra-marathoner run the 64-mile trek from the Big House to Spartan Stadium

This event embodies Alex’s perseverance as an athlete, his exuberance for life, and his quest to make a difference. It also serves as an example of what is possible when we remain faithful and focused on our life goals. This attitude of looking past adversity and meeting new challenges with hope and vigor aligns with the RCPD’s motto of Maximizing Ability and Opportunity for all students with disabilities. 

During the inaugural event’s Landing Ceremony, RCPD director, Michael Hudson, emphasized the instrumental role the RCPD and departments like it play in the lives of students like Alex, with Chronic Health Disabilities or others. He said, “Disabilities are a natural part of life.” and “We are here when life happens.” 

Since then, MSU‘s RCPD and U-M’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) have served the needs of thousands of students with disabilities. And this event has helped them do that.  With over $140,000 raised to date, the contributions from Alex’s Great State Race have strengthened both the RCPD and SSD, truly embodying their shared mission of serving students’ needs, no matter the school affiliation.